Being literate has always been a sign of progress, I sign of success. It was seen for many years as a way to bring oneself to a higher level. To be literate was to be above the illiterate. To be educated. To be free. It opened a world that was closed to so many. Being able to read meant that you could access services, learn new things, be connected to a wider world and share your thoughts with others in the form of text. It has historically meant the difference between having jobs, wealth, status or being a second class citizen in many countries.
In more recent years, it could be argued that there is a similar technology divide that exists in society. Certain skills are quickly becoming necessary to properly function in day to day life. Having an email address and being able to access it is one example of a skill that is becoming increasingly necessary in today’s world. So many important pieces of important information are stored an accessed online as well. Things like banking, mortgages, subscriptions to services, media content etc are all using technology to provide an experience of ease to the consumer.
In comparison to traditional literacy which was usually considered reading and writing, the literacies of the 21st century look much different. Many argue that learning to write in cursive handwriting is no longer a necessary skill, whereas checking email would be considered very necessary. In terms of what we would consider necessary skills in today’s world, above are 13 literacies broken into broad categories that are touted as being for the digital age. Interestingly, a category entitled traditional is still included. It is crucial that these types of conversations continue to occur in order to flesh out those literacies that are needed in society. Many would also site physical literacy and mathematical literacies as important tools in preparing for the world of tomorrow. In the following video, I outline the importance of Media/Digital Literacy. I also highlighted the fact that being media literate is about more than just tools. It is about thinking critically.
The more we can encourage students to think critically about the world around us, the more aware they will be of the varied nuances of digital messages. In addition, as stated in this Media Smarts article, students must also be able to be smart consumers of products, recognize the role of media in culture, create media responsibly and recognize point of view. In a changing and intense world, the biggest asset teachers have in media literacy education is parents. As stated below, it is at home that kids will grapple with ideas and become independent thinkers.